HCC Theological Survey Question # 1 The Trinity: Three in One

January 27, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Without a doubt, the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the truths that distinguish Christianity from the major religions of the world. While many religions are monotheistic and others are pantheistic, biblical Christianity is unique in its belief in one God manifested in three Persons. Skeptics would claim that such a belief is self-contradictory and even biblically unsubstantiated. Yet the reality is that the Trinity is only understood through an exhaustive and methodical study of Scripture. Thus, the Trinity is not unbiblical but wholly biblical. As Millard Erickson says, “the Trinity is a genuine exercise in systematic theology.” (Christian Theology, p. 347)

1. What the Trinity is not

  • Tri-theism – A belief that the three Persons of the Trinity are three distinct and loosely related gods – The Father is a God, the Son is another God, and the Holy Spirit is a third God. Such a belief contradicts the biblical teaching of monotheism.
  • Modalism – A belief in one God who reveals Himself in three different ways, i.e. a man being a husband, father and employee. God does not take off “one hat” and then put on another. Such a belief denies the simultaneous existence of the three Persons of the Trinity.

2. What the Trinity is

  • A belief in one God – Scripture is clear in it’s teaching that there is only one God.   This truth is found in both the Old and the New Testaments…

     Deuteronomy 6:4 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

     I Timothy 2:5 – For there is one God…

  • A belief that God is three distinct Persons – In other words, the Father is not the Son and the Father is not the Holy Spirit. Though one God, they are distinct in their personhood. (Matthew 3:13-17; 28:19; II Cor. 13:14)
  • A belief that each Person is equally God – Some have tried to write it this way – “God are one,” or “God is three.” The idea being that each Person of the Trinity is equally God. Once again, this truth is clearly found in Scripture.

Þ  The Father is God – The Godhead of the Father is seen from the very first verse of the Bible – “In the beginning God…”

Þ  The Son is God – John 1:1 echoes the words of Genesis 1:1 and clearly shows that Jesus was always God.

Þ  The Holy Spirit is God – The Holy Spirit is classified on equal level with Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19;Ephesians 4:4-6; I Peter 1:2). In addition, there are passages in which He is directly referred to as God (Acts 5:3, 4; I Corinthians 3:16)

3. The Trinity is difficult to comprehend

Finally, we must admit that the Trinity is humanely incomprehensible.   For years we have tried to use human analogies to explain it: It is like an egg, which consists of yolk, white and shell. Or, it is like water, which can be found in solid, liquid or vapor forms. Quite frankly, though, all of the analogies fall short. In the end we must admit that it cannot be rationalized and must simply be believed. Tertullian (160-225 AD) asserted that the doctrine of “the Trinity must be divinely revealed and not humanly constructed.” In other words, we cannot fully understand it. It must be accepted and embraced by faith.

What do you believe?

January 12, 2015  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Christianity Today recently published an article that highlighted the theological weaknesses and confusions found in today’s Evangelical Church.   You can read the article here. The survey, which was done by Lifeway Research for Ligonier Ministries, revealed the Church was confident about certain beliefs such as the resurrection of Jesus, salvation by faith in Jesus alone and the inspiration of Scripture, but shaky on the divinity of Jesus and the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

After seeing that article, our pastoral team decided to do our own survey.  We wanted to see how the doctrinal knowledge of HCC would compare against other evangelicals?  If you haven’t taken the HCC survey, you can find it here.  As we tallied the results we found, like everyone else, we were strong in some areas and weak in others.  There were theological truths our faith family clearly understood and other doctrines that were misunderstood.  The survey gave us a clear indication of some of the doctrines we, as a pastoral teaching team, need to address in the future.

Over the course of the next ten weeks we will take each of the questions and write a blog article about them.  We will address the various beliefs about each doctrine and compare them with Scripture.  Our prayer is that these short studies will be beneficial in helping us to establish a strong theological foundation here at HCC.   Below is a list of the doctrinal questions that we will discuss…

1/19 – There is one true God in three distinct persons

1/26 – The divinity of God the Father and Jesus the Son

2/2 – The deity and the humanity of Jesus

2/9 – The personhood of the Holy Spirit

2/16 – The accuracy of the Bible

2/23 – The road to heaven

3/2 – The order of salvation

3/9 – Man’s contribution to his salvation

3/16 – The literalness of heaven and hell

3/23 – The necessity of church attendance

Let me challenge you to “tune in” every week as we study these important doctrines of the faith.  II Peter 3:18 instructs us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  So, let’s grow together and may our increased knowledge of Him change us for His honor and glory.

Final Thoughts For 2014

December 30, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

As this year comes to an end, it is time to reminisce over everything God has done in my life and in the ministry of HCC. For 52 straight years, God has blessed me and given me far more than I could ever deserve. (You could say He was on a roll, but that would be quite an understatement. He has been on a roll since the beginning of time.) This year’s blessings are, once again, a tribute to His mercy, grace and empowerment in my life. Who would I be and where would I be without the grace of God? Here are a few things that 2014 taught me…

1. Being a grandparent is wonderful!

On January 22, 2014 our daughter-in-law, Jenny, gave birth to our first grandchild, Isabella. Although we are thousands of miles apart, she has brought immeasurable joy into our lives. We look so forward to the weekly opportunities to visit with her via Skype. We now certainly understand the words of Solomon in Proverbs 17:6 – “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged…”

Of course, I have become the dreaded grandpa that is always saying, “Can I show you a picture of my granddaughter?” So, here is a beautiful picture of her.

isabella1

2. A godly wife is more precious than jewels

After more than thirty years of marriage, I continue to learn how blessed I am to have a wife that loves the Lord and still loves me. (Miracles still happen!) Proverbs 31:10 states, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”  Vickie has made such a dramatic and significant impact upon my life.I cannot begin to imagine how I would be without her godly influence in my life. Apart from my salvation, she is my most valuable possession. My challenge this year is to make sure I communicate to her how precious she is to me.

3. Life is filled with difficulties

That is certainly not a new revelation or lesson. Through the years we have cried with many who have experienced heartache and we have suffered some serious trials of our own. Nevertheless, 2014 was an extremely trying year as we witnessed unexpected death, sudden illness, the consequences of difficult decisions and the effect of what sin can do to families. Yet, through it all, God was faithful. Jesus’ message of John 16:33 continues to ring loud and clear – “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

4. Pastoring a church is a marathon and not a sprint

Everyday I am learning the importance of longevity in ministry. As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 9:11 – ” …the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong…” In other words, in a long race, the tortoise will beat the rabbit, because it is more about persistence than it is about quickness. My friend and fellow pastor, Guy Melton, often says, “Pastoring is a journey.” That is so true. The majority of blessings and victories are won not in the short term, but in the long haul. I am praying God gives me the health, the grace and the perseverance to stay at Hollywood Community Church for many years.

5. I need to pray more

WOW! I know that I sound like “Captain Obvious.” Nevertheless, I have this innate human tendency to attempt to do things in my own power. In my heart I know I need to pray. I know I am weak, incapable and powerless, yet I still stupidly try to do things on my own. I replace a prayer list for a to do list, worship for work and quiet time with God with busy time with others. Why do I do that? I am praying that in 2015 I learn how desperate I am for God and that my time with Jesus is my most important appointment every day.

6. Life is short

It’s funny how I feel younger than I really am. It is hard to believe I am 52, that I have been in ministry for 30+ years and the road ahead of me is shorter than the road behind me. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t believe I am ready to kick the proverbial bucket yet. However, I do get the fact that my days are numbered. James says that my life is like a mist; it will soon vanish. In other words, I no longer have years to waste or squander. What I am going to do for God must be done now. CT Studd said it so well…

Only one life, so soon it will pass. 

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

I want to end well! I want to hear the Lord say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Well, those are my thoughts as I end 2014. What are yours? Let me challenge you to take some time the next few days and evaluate your life. What is God teaching you? What do you need to change in 2015? Don’t squander your years. Life is too short!

Who are you going to invite?

December 15, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Yes, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year… to share your gospel story and to invite guests to church.  (Bet you didn’t see that one coming.) Recent surveys from Lifeway Research show that unbelievers are most open to talking about matters of faith during the Christmas season than during any other time of year.   Check out these statistics…

timing

Wow!  Almost 50% of people say that they are more open to talking about their faith during Christmas.  More so than any other time. What an opportunity!  So, are we as believers taking advantage of this open door?  Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding NO!  Only 2% of church attenders have invited an unchurched person.  Yes, you read that correctly, only 2%.

Let me challenge you to approach this Christmas season with a ministry mindset.  Look for opportunities to live the gospel and share the gospel.  Here are a few simple recommendations.

  • Begin to pray that God will give you “Gospel Opportunities” during this Christmas season.
  • Be ready for God to give you an open door to share your faith.  This may come in the form of a conversation or just a chance to invite a friend to church.
  • Take a handful of Christmas invitations and distribute them to family, friends and acquaintances (waitresses, mail carriers, your children’s teachers, etc.)

On Sunday, December 21st at 10:00 am and On Christmas Eve at 5:00 pm we will have beautiful, family oriented Christmas services.  Make plans to be there and invite someone to come with you. Make a commitment this year to invite those that God has placed in your life. Take a step of faith and invite them to church.

Are you committed to the Church?

December 9, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Being a Christian in the United States is not what it used to be. Recent surveys by the Barna Group and others show that today’s Christians are not as devout or as faithful as those of previous generations. In years gone by the average believer faithfully attended worship services every Sunday unless they were sick or out of town. Today’s worshipper does not feel compelled to demonstrate such a commitment.

Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Christian Resources, states that “the number one reason for the decline in church attendance is that members attend with less frequency than they did just a few years ago.” (http://tinyurl.com/mzwpjf3). In other words, it is not that less people are attending church. Rather, it is that people are attending church less. So, how important is the Church to Jesus? Is it necessary for Christians to attend Church? And, why do we attend Church anyway? Here are several important truths that we need to know about the Church.

1. The Church is important to Jesus

I have to admit I am a fanatic of the local Church. Now, being a local Church pastor, I am sure that such a statement does not surprise you. But, my fanaticism for the Church goes beyond my calling and my profession. It is rooted in the teaching of Jesus and New Testament ecclesiology. Notice that…

  • The Church is the Body of Christ

This truth is repeatedly seen through the New Testament. The Church is called “one body in Christ” in Romans 12:5, “the body of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 12:27 and Ephesians 4:12, and “the body” in Hebrews 13:3. The Church is clearly equated with “the body” of Christ in Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 1:24.

As Christ’s body, the Church is His representative here on Earth. It is an extension of Him. It is the Church that is empowered to live out the love, compassion and vision of Jesus. Thus, in that way we function as His body.

  • The Church is the Bride of Christ

Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.

Revelation 19:7 – Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready.

I can think of no description that would give more insight into how important the Church is to Christ. Or, for that matter, how important the Church should be to us. At any wedding, it is the Bride who is the focus of attention and honor.   The congregation stands to recognize her. The groom declares his love for her. Everyone wants to take pictures with her. Although the groom is important, he pales in significance to the Bride. The wedding is all about her!

I believe that is why God chose the symbol of the Bride to represent the Church.  Just as the Bride is joined to the Groom, so the Church is joined to Christ. Just as the Bride publicly declares her love and commitment for the groom, so the Church publicly declares its love and commitment to Christ. Just as the Bride is treated with honor and respect, so the Church should be attended, loved and esteemed. It is Christ’s Bride.

2. The Church is necessary for the believer

This truth flies in the face of many independent-minded Christians today. Because of the fact that no Church is perfect, many have used the Church’s flaws as an excuse to disconnect or not attend.  They feel they can make it on their own. They do not need the Church. That simply is not true.   Here are several reasons why you and your family need to be connected to a local assembly of believers.

  • The Church is the pillar and ground of truth – I Timothy 3:15

We live in a time in which everything is questioned and everything is up for debate.   How do we know what is true and false? How do we know what we should believe and what we should reject?   Paul clearly tells us that it is the task of the Church to promote and protect the integrity of the Gospel. Quite frankly, if you are disconnected from the Church you are in danger of drifting from the truth.

  • The Church is the center of corporate worship – I Corinthians 3:17, 18

The significance of corporate worship is seen in Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians. As the believer meets and worships together with other believers, he beholds the glory of the Lord. Christ’s presence is felt and experienced in a palpable and transformational way when God’s people get together. It is that corporate experience that allows us to see and be transformed by His glorious presence. The simple truth is that when God’s people get together God shows up in a powerful way (Matthew 18:20).

WOW! How powerful is that? Shouldn’t that be the most important event in the week of any believer? How can many Christians “blow off” that event as if other things in life are more important? There is nothing more important than God’s people getting together to worship our great Savior!

  • The Church is the training ground for spiritual growth – Ephesians 4:11-16

Christ gifted His Church with qualified and Spirit-filled leaders who are responsible to build up the Body of Christ. Such training results in maturity, stability, solidarity and healthiness.   A mature, stable, healthy and unified Church is prepared to serve its community.

  • The Church is the control center for Christian service

Throughout the New Testament Pastors, Deacons and Missionaries were commissioned for service through their local Church (Acts 6:1-7; 13:1-3; 14:23).   Lone ranger Christians accomplish very little. It is the Church organized and empowered that has been commissioned to make disciples and to impact its community.

So, how valuable is the Church to you? Do you treat it with the same importance as Jesus?   I strongly believe that a Christian cannot love Jesus and not love the Church. If Jesus died for the Church how can we not love, attend and support it? Let us make sure that we do not minimize what Christ emphasizes.

Take the Time to be Thankful

November 25, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

It’s that time again! The season of the year in which we express our gratitude for all that God has done for us. Why is it, though, that we need a holiday to express thanks? Shouldn’t being thankful be something that comes natural for us? Why wouldn’t we just overflow with gratitude every day of our lives? After all, where would we be without Jesus?

Yes, even we who are followers of Jesus Christ are prone to accept things from God without being appreciative. We tend to spend much more time petitioning than we do praising. Sadly, we are bold to ask, but shy to give thanks. Such an attitude is not uncommon. Luke 17:11-19 relates the story of ten men who received from God, but only one returned to give thanks.

I am sure that you are familiar with the story. Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem, and on the way He encountered a group of ten lepers.   Realizing who He was, they cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” He immediately responded to their cries and told them to go and present themselves before the priest. It was while they were on the way to the synagogue that they were healed.   Upon realizing that their leprosy was gone and their skin was clean, amazingly only one of them returned to Jesus to express his gratitude.

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, here are a few lessons we can learn from this event…

1. Our praises should be as loud as our petitions.

Most believers spend a lot of time asking God for things. We ask Him for good health, financial blessings, protection for our family and even for personal wants and desires.   There certainly is nothing wrong with presenting our petitions to the Lord. As a matter of fact, we are encouraged to do so (Matthew 7:7; 21:22; I Peter 5:7).  Yet sadly, our petitions get more airtime than our praise.

In Luke 17:13 all ten lepers lifted their voices and cried out to Jesus asking to be healed.   Their cry certainly was loud enough to detour Jesus from His journey and to respond to their cry. Yet after being healed, only one “praised God with a loud voice,” (17:15).

That got me to thinking. How often do I cry out in prayer but remain silent in praise? How often do I boldly ask God for a miracle, but then respond timidly after God responds?   The simple truth is He is worthy of our praise. Our praises should be as loud as our petitions.

2. Thankfulness requires time.

All believers, even the most immature ones, are aware of the importance of being thankful. However, we often do not take the time to express our gratitude to the Lord. We know we should be thankful. We even want to be thankful, but our busy schedules prevent us from taking the time to give thanks.

That certainly was true in the case of the ten lepers. Nine of those that were made whole were in such a hurry to be declared clean and to return to their normal lives that they did not take the time to give thanks.   Verse 15, though, says that one of the lepers “turned back.” He deliberately took the time thank Jesus.

How about you? Do you make the time to give thanks? Is gratefulness and praise a part of your daily worship? For the follower of Jesus Christ, every day should be Thanksgiving. Take the time to be thankful!

3. We must respond to God’s grace.

All ten of the lepers were recipients of God’s grace. None of them deserved to be healed. What Jesus did for them was totally unmerited. Undoubtedly, all ten demonstrated a small amount of faith. The text clearly indicates that they were healed on the way to the priest. So, the decision to go to the synagogue without having yet seen any visible signs of healing demonstrated that they believed Jesus’ words. Yet, their faith in His healing did not result in saving faith.

Jesus’ comment to the one who turned back clearly shows that he became a believer. In verse 19 Jesus tells him, “Rise and go your way. Your faith has made you well.”   The phrase Jesus used to describe him being made well indicates that the healing was more than physical. Throughout the book of Luke, that same phrase is used to describe salvation (Luke 7:50; 8:48 & 18:42).

Like the nine lepers, all of us are recipients of God’s grace. The fact that we are alive, that we have food to eat, that we have a family that loves us are all demonstrations of God’s grace in our lives. We do not deserve any of those things. There are many, though, who receive from God yet do not respond to him. They take what God gives, yet they are unwilling to repent of their sins and respond to His message of salvation.  The simple truth is that healing that doesn’t result in saving faith is incomplete and stunted.

Let me challenge you to begin a new tradition this Thanksgiving. Make the determination to be thankful, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Take the time to be thankful and make sure that your praise rings out as loud as your petitions. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thoughts On Veteran’s Day

November 11, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

November 11, 2014 is a special day as we honor the men and women that have served or are presently serving in the armed forces of the United States.  Today there will be parades, picnics, parties and celebrations to honor these worthy heroes. Quite frankly, though, one day of recognition is not enough to demonstrate the debt of gratitude we owe. Here are a few random thoughts…

1. Freedom is very costly

It is often stated that ‘freedom is not free.” I cannot think of a more true statement. On a daily basis we enjoy freedom, but we often forget the price that was paid so that we can experience such liberty. Historians tell us that more than one million Americans have given their lives in service for our country, and another 1.5 million plus have been wounded.* What a sacrifice! That is one million lives that were cut short. That is a million families that made the ultimate sacrifice.   That is 1.5 million individuals whose lives were dramatically affected. Each of those soldiers and families would agree that freedom is very costly.

*Congressional Record

 2. A few serve for the many

As an 18-year old young man I remember registering for the draft. Although the Armed Forces had already transitioned to a volunteer force, I was still terrified. I was confident that somehow it would all change, I would get drafted and die on a foreign battlefield. Thankfully, that did not happen. I was not compelled to serve, nor has anyone else since 1973. Our Armed Forces are filled with individuals who volunteer to serve their country

Counting both active military and military reserves, there are more than 3,000,000 men and women that are presently serving.   That is only 1% of our total population. How cool to think that the 1% fights for and protects the 99%.   Those numbers should only motivate us to be even more grateful for the small percentage of men and women that actually serve.

 3. We take freedom for granted

It is so easy for us who have never had freedom taken from us to take it for granted. We have come to expect it. We cannot imagine life without it. Let us remember, though, that there are people and nations all around the world that have NEVER experienced the freedom that we possess.   Here are a few of the freedoms that we possess…

  • We have the freedom to vote.
  • We have the freedom to speak our conscience.
  • We have the freedom to make our own decisions.
  • We have the freedom to worship according to our convictions.
  • We have the freedom to own a Bible, read a Bible and share its truth with others.
  • We have the freedom to raise our children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.

WOW! What freedom. All of these liberties exist today because of the men and women that have fought for and protect them. Let’s not take their service and their sacrifice for granted!

4. Our ultimate freedom is found in Jesus Christ

We cannot accurately speak of freedom and sacrifice without mentioning what Jesus Christ did for us. Jesus, the ultimate soldier, went to battle with Satan, sin and death. Yes, He paid the highest price by giving His life as a ransom for ours.   Yet, today we do not memorialize a dead Soldier. No, we celebrate a risen Savior.

In Galatians Paul said, “Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has set us free.” So today on this Veteran’s day we celebrate our heavenly Veteran who gave us the ultimate victory. Through Him we experience true freedom!

A Call to Generosity

October 21, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

For the average family, finances are tight. It usually seems as if there is more month than there is money. Although many families would like to be generous in their giving, they find it difficult if not impossible. How, then, does a family balance the command to give to the Lord’s work with the realities of a limited budget?

Unfortunately, many families are motivated for the wrong reasons. First of all, many give out of guilt. That type of giving is promoted out of a sense of legalism. You have heard preachers say, “If you don’t give your tithe, then God will not bless you.” That teaching contradicts what Paul says in II Corinthians 9:7 “Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person that gives cheerfully.”

Secondly, many families give selfishly. They give to the Lord’s work expecting something back from Him.   Their giving is not motivated by sincere worship or heartfelt gratitude. They simply believe that giving to God is the best way to get something back from God.   Now, I do not believe either of those motivations honor God or truly inspire the believer to give sacrificially, generously and cheerfully. What, then, motivates the Christian to generous giving?

The eighth and ninth chapters of II Corinthians provide the answer for us. Some have argued that these are the greatest chapters on giving in the New Testament.   Let me challenge you to take a few minutes and read this wonderful passage. Here are a few thoughts on generous giving that we can draw from Paul’s challenge to the Corinthian believers.

1. Giving should be an act of faith

In the first five verses of II Corinthians eight, Paul mentions the example of the Macedonian believers. Although the Christians in Macedonia (present day Greece) were experiencing poverty and persecution, they still gave generously to those in need.   They didn’t allow their situation to suffocate their giving. How did they give when they themselves were experiencing poverty?

  • They were extremely joyful – II Corinthians 8:2

The only way a person can joyfully experience poverty and persecution is to have a deep founded trust in God. The Macedonian believers believed that God was in control of their lives. Thus, they were happy with little. They were joyful in spite of tribulation.   They understood the words of James, “when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”

How about you? Have you learned to be happy with little? Do trials weaken or strengthen your faith?

  • They were personally committed – II Corinthians 8:5

Paul makes a profound statement about the commitment level of the Macedonians. He says that their “first action was to give themselves to the Lord.” WOW! That is powerful. They gave themselves to God before they gave their offerings to God.

So let me ask you, is what you give to the Lord an act of faith? Often we give according to our abilities. Let’s be like the Macedonians and give more than we can afford (8:3). Let’s make sure that what we give to the Lord is a true demonstration of faith.

2. Giving should be an act of following

After mentioning the example of the Macedonians, Paul gives us an even better model – Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 8:9 – You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.

This verse is filled with profound theological truths. It speaks of Jesus’ deity – “though He was rich.” It speaks of His incarnation – “he became poor.” It speaks of His divine purpose – “for your sakes.” It speaks of justification – “so that He could make you rich.”

Yet, Paul’s main purpose is to use Jesus as our supreme example. Jesus abandoned His wealth and His privileged status for others. So, if Jesus gave away His riches, what are we going to do with ours? Followers of Jesus Christ are challenged to use what God has given them for the benefit of others. Will we hoard what we have for ourselves, or will we follow the example of Jesus?

3. Giving should be an act of farming

II Corinthians 9:6 – Remember this – a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.

Paul shares a simple agricultural principle – You can only reap a harvest in relation to the amount of seed that is sown. A farmer cannot expect a large harvest if he only plants a few seeds.   That is not rocket science!

Let us remember that the seed that is planted is the Gospel. When we give to the Lord’s work, we are participating in the work of the Gospel, both locally and around the world. Thus, the more we give the more seed that is sown, and the more seed that is sown, the larger the harvest.   God wants you to be involved in the harvest, to have a part in the harvesting of souls. But you have to plant a seed first. Are you planting enough seed? Are you expecting a big harvest?

4. Giving results in provision

II Corinthians 9:8 – And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 

What a blessed promise! When we follow the example of Jesus and give by faith, God not only promises to supply our needs, but He also promises to give us more so that we can give more.  In other words, He gives to us so that we can give to others.

Let me challenge you to examine your giving. Are you giving according to your ability, or are you giving by faith? Are you following the generous, sacrificial example of Jesus? Are you planting enough seeds? Those are personal and penetrating questions. Let me challenge you to ask God to help you be a generous giver!

Questions & Answers

October 16, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

Last evening we had a wonderful time of worship. In addition, we hosted a Bible Q & A time. It was a great night. The questions were terrific and I appreciate Pastor Thomas Miller and Ron Milner, one of our Elders for helping to answer the questions.

Here are the remaining questions that did not get answered last evening…

1. When we die do we go straight to heaven or do we sleep?

The idea that the soul of an individual does not immediately go to heaven, but rather stays buried till the resurrection is called Soul Sleep. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists are the main groups that hold to this doctrine. The primary verses used to support soul sleep are found in Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 9:5,  “For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten.”

Eccl. 12:7,  “then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”

The writer is telling us how things are from the human perspective from “under the sun.”  He is not telling us doctrinal statements about whether or not the soul continues after death.

In the New Testament we see Paul say in 2 Cor. 5:8, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Paul is clearly telling us that when he dies, he will go and be with the Lord.  Another example is found in Matthew 17:1-8. At the Transfiguration we see Moses and Elijah who were alive.  There was no soul sleep with them.

Therefore, we do not believe in the doctrine of soul sleep.  The soul continues on after death.  The wicked face the judgment of God, and the Christians will dwell in His presence.

* Some of these statements were taken from http://carm.org/soul-sleep.

2. What did Jesus mean when He said, “Don’t throw your pearls before swine?”

The passage is found in Matthew 7:6. In the immediate context Jesus is speaking about a judgmental spirit, having commanded us to not judge, lest we be judged.  Before we can judge others, we must take an inventory of our lives to make sure that there is no sin that needs to be removed.

Nevertheless, we do need to be discerning in how we present the Gospel. To His Jewish listeners the pig was completely rejected. It could not be eaten and was considered unclean according to OT law.

Jesus, though, uses the analogy in reference to those who would reject and disparage the Gospel.   The disciples were encouraged to not allow those who rejected the invitation of Christ to treat precious things as cheap.   If someone coldly and habitually rejects the message of the Gospel, we are to move on and share it with someone who will be more receptive.

3. When does the Holy Spirit take residence in the life of the believer?

We believe that the Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer at the moment of salvation.  This truth is repeatedly seen throughout the New Testament. Here are a few verses that teach that truth…

I Corinthians 3:16 – Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?

I Corinthians 6:19 – Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and we given to you by God?

Although, the Corinthians were referred to as carnal and not spiritual (I Corinthians 3:1), Paul still assured them that they were ALL indwelt by the same Holy Spirit.

4. Where was Jesus in the three days between His death and resurrection?

The only Bible passage that seems to allude to that time is I Peter 3:18-22. Unfortunately though, the Bible isn’t entirely clear what exactly Christ did for the three days between His death and resurrection. It does seem, though, that He was preaching victory over the fallen angels and/or unbelievers. Perhaps this is one of the mysteries we will understand once we get to heaven.

5. Does HCC hold to the doctrine of election?

Without a doubt election is a biblical doctrine. It is found repeatedly throughout the New Testament (Ephesians 1:4-6; Titus 1:1; I Peter 1:2). The question that is debated is as to the scope and timing of election. At HCC we realize that this is a debatable topic with many strong arguments.   The reason that we do not take a strong position is that we do not believe that it affects the basic message of the Gospel. How and when God elects is completely and entirely up to Him.

6. Was Satan originally in the Garden of Eden?

Rather than taking the time to answer that detailed question in my blog. Here is a link that will give a thorough and detailed answer – http://carm.org/god-satan-garden-sin

7. Are some people born gay and how do we approach them.

This is a difficult topic that is much discussed and debated in theological, biological and sociological circles.  I am confident that I am not qualified to answer the question from a biological perspective. I do know that every human being was born with a sinful nature. The desire to commit any sin is ingrained within that nature – no one has to teach our children to sin they do so naturally.

I would also add that each individual struggles with different sins. The sins that greatly tempt me might not tempt you. Thus, the challenge for each individual, then, is whether or not they will give in to those sinful desires.   Any sin can only be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we approach a homosexual individual the same way that we approach any other person. They need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is where it begins. Until they know Jesus they will not accept the truths and the standards of purity that He lays out in His Word.

8. Why do we not worship on the Sabbath?

First of all, of the 10 commandments listed in Exodus 20:1-17, only 9 of them were reinstituted in the New Testament: five in Matt. 19:18, murder, adultery, stealing, false witness, and honor parents; in Rom. 13:9, coveting; worshiping God properly covers the first three commandments. The one that was not reaffirmed was the one about the Sabbath. Instead, Jesus said that He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8).

Secondly, we meet together on Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus (I Corinthians 16:1). Thankfully, we no longer look back to the Old Testament Law. We now can stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free (Galatians 5:1).

9. Did God intend for us to be vegetarians and did they eat meat after the fall?

It appears as if Adam and Eve only ate plants, fruits and vegetables before the Fall (Genesis 1:29).  Did they begin to eat meat before the flood? The Bible is not clear. We do know that Genesis 9 indicates that God gave meat to man for food (Genesis 9:1-3).

10. Do ghosts exist and is any spirit or presence felt demonic?

Admittedly, there is a growing interest in angels, ghosts and the spirit world. As a result, many false and unbiblical concepts have been embraced and promoted. Here are some truths that we know to be true from Scripture.

  • When people die they do not become ghosts or angels.

The truth is that when a person dies, they immediately enter into their eternal abode – either heaven or hell. We addressed that question earlier by stating that the believer immediately goes to heaven and the unbeliever immediately goes to eternal punishment (Luke 16:23; II Corinthians 5:8).

  • We can encounter angels without realizing it

Hebrews 13:2 instructs us to be kind to strangers because it is possible for us to entertain angels without be aware of it.

  • There are demonic spirits

In the Bible they are referred to as familiar spirits and evil spirits (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 8:19-14, Ephesians 6:12). Let us keep in mind that the grand purpose of the Devil and his demonic army is to lead man astray. Even the Devil himself disguises himself as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14).

  • We must carefully test the spirits

I John 4:1-3 exhorts us to test the spirits to see if they are of God. This passage is speaking of false teachers, but it certainly applies to familiar spirits. They are not something with which a believer should get involved.   God speaks to us through His Word and not through a familiar spirit. So, if an individual is having some sort of communication with a spirit it is VERY likely that he/she is communicating with a demonic spirit. Be careful!

Worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth

October 6, 2014  |  No Comments  |  by Brian Burkholder  |  Pastor's Blog

In John 4:24 Jesus makes one of the most succinct yet one of the most profound declarations of worship in all of Scripture. During his lengthy conversation with the Samaritan woman, she asks Him an important question – “Were the Samaritans allowed to worship God on Mount Gerizim or did they have to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem?” While she was looking for a concise answer, Jesus gave her a theological response.

John 4:24 – God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

WOW! What a profound statement! In only 14 words in English and 13 words in Greek, Jesus gives a theological lesson on both the person of God and the nature of worship. What, then, does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth?

1. Worship is not bound to one location

The questions posed by this inquisitive woman shed light on the thinking and the belief of the Samaritans. The Samaritans were a people of mixed ancestry – they were both Jewish and Gentile. Although they worshipped Jehovah, they worshipped Him in their own manner. They had their own Pentateuch, their own version of Israelite history and their own temple on Mount Gerizim.

Yes, Jesus answered this woman’s question, but His response goes beyond the religious traditions of His day. For the moment, Jewish worship was still contained to the Temple Mount, but He was about to inaugurate a new age in which God would no longer dwell in a Temple made with human hands, but in the heart of every believer (I Cor. 3:16, 17; Ephesians 2:19-22). Thus, worship would be freed from its location restraints.

For us, this means we can now worship God at any time and in any place. We are not restricted to the church building or Sunday worship. God receives sacrifices of praise all throughout the week. In other words, worship is open for business 24/7.

Are you taking advantage of this tremendous blessing? Or, are you a Sunday morning worshipper only? God desires for you to worship Him every day and in every place.

2. Worship is spiritual

On the surface, that seems like an extremely obvious statement. Yet frankly, many people worship physically without worshipping spiritually. On the outside they are going through the motions, but their internal spirit is not engaged. Their spirit is not connecting with God’s Spirit.

  • Worship must be spiritual because God is a Spirit.

As we mentioned, Jesus gives us a glimpse into the nature of God. He states that God is not composed of physical matter and does not possess a physical nature.   He cannot be represented by physical objects and cannot be contained or controlled.

  • Worship must be spiritual because God’s Spirit desires to connect with our spirit.

As a worshipper, Mary, the mother of Jesus, understood that principle. In Luke 1:46, 47 she declares, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The simple truth is that it is our soul and spirit that connect with God.   Theologian Wayne Grudem states, “Unless our spirits are worshipping God, we are not truly worshipping Him.” (Systematic Theology, p. 1011).

Romans 8:16 – The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.

It is that spiritual connection that points out sin in our lives. It is that spiritual connection that produces true worship. It is that spiritual connection that allows God to speak to us. It is that spiritual connection that produces change in our lives. Worshiping in spirit allows God’s Spirit to minister to us.

3. Worship must be based on truth

Sadly, we have allowed the creativity of worship to affect the truthfulness of worship. We highlight method over meaning. If we are not careful, worship can be more influenced by culture than it is by the Bible. That is extremely dangerous!

Jesus says that true worshippers worship in spirit and in truth. What did Jesus mean?

  • The truth should never be affected by worship.

Truth is truth. It is absolute. It is unchangeable. It is non-negotiable. It is transcultural and it is eternal.   That TRUTH is seen repeatedly throughout Scripture.

Psalm 119:89 -Your eternal Word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven.

Psalm 119:160 – The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.

Malachi 3:6 – For I the Lord do not change…

Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

We must never allow politics, popularity or the pragmatics of worship to change the truth. The simple fact is that whenever worship strays from the truth it is no longer worship. Worship should always be grounded upon the truth.

  • The truth of worship should propel us towards truthfulness

The truth of who God is should cause us to be truthful about who we are. Real worship produces honesty and a genuineness of heart.   As we see ourselves in the truth of God’s Word through singing, preaching and wholesome fellowship, we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to worship in spirit and in truth.

“Lord, help us to worship in spirit and in truth.”